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Archive for June 2018

Bagdikian was right: Don’t allow media to concentrate

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Ben Bagdikian, one of the nation’s foremost media critics, died in 2016 at age 96. He left behind warnings about concentration in media ownership. We should have paid more attention.

head shot of human being

Ben Bagdikian

Beginning in 1983 with the publication of “The Media Monopoly” and again in 2000 with “The New Media Monopoly,” he railed against the growing power of ever fewer owners of media — big fish swallowing little fish, then still bigger fish swallowing those big fish. In the 2000 edition, he called the most monstrous fish “The Big Five” — Time Warner, The Walt Disney Company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, Viacom, and the German firm Bertelsmann. He argued these corporations had “more communications power than was exercised by any despot or dictatorship in history.”

That was only 18 years ago. The world of media has dramatically changed — and, thanks to a federal judge’s decision this week in the merger case of AT&T and Time Warner, more change in media ownership and concentration lies ahead. AT&T (which provides the conduit) and Time Warner (which provides the content) argue they must be allowed to merge to compete with the new generation of media titans — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google.

Bagdikian would have none of this. He’d continue to argue the media concentration underway for more than a century has consequences on how we the people see ourselves, see others, and govern ourselves.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 13, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

When is that chemical toxic? Ask the industry-guided EPA

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If you’d like a reason to be cynical about whether government favors you or favors an industry, look no further than a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA safer choice logoThe EPA has decided to review 10 chemicals in public use but considered toxic by many scientists. However, the EPA will only assess the risk of these chemicals in terms of direct human contact. A law passed by Congress in 2016 requires the EPA to assess toxicity risk in hundreds of chemicals to determine whether they should be further regulated or even removed from the market, according to The New York Times.

Under potential review are chemicals in common commercial products. Take, for example, the chemical often used to dry clean your clothes, the solvent perchloroethylene. Yes, it will clean your Sunday best, but it’s nasty stuff. Also on the list is 1,4-dioxane. You might find it in your deodorant, your shampoos, or your cosmetics. Its use, too, might not be in your best interest.

But the EPA’s review, taken at behest of Congress, will be limited to only direct contact. Members of Congress, says The Times, argue the 2016 law calls for comprehensive analysis of risk. That would include contamination of air, land, and water in addition to direct contact.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 12, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Why save coal instead of investing in wind?

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Money moves toward enterprises where profit lies in waiting. But money runs as fast as possible from the tired and unprofitable.

wind turbines sky road

Wind turbines along I-80 in southern Wyoming.

Consider the fortunes of wind-generated energy and that produced by burning coal — a carbon fuel notable for emissions of carbon dioxide into an atmosphere already laden with it.

President Donald campaigned on the reckless promise to rescue the coal industry. I’ve already written about the economic improbability of coal’s rebirth (and the jobs that go with it). Note, too, that President Donald’s former chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, disagreed with the president’s touting of coal. (Hence the italicized former.)

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 4, 2018 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized